There are over 50 one another commands in the Bible. This series of posts is a journey through all of them.
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Rom. 13:8)
Love is at the very heart of the law of God.
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Rom. 13:9-10)
Think about the very structure of the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God and the latter six address how we are to relate to others. These two tables of the law can be summed up in Jesus’ answer to the Pharisee’s question,
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-31)
We can sum up the Ten Commandments in a short phrase: love God, and love others. That’s it. Simple, clear, and yet immensely difficult to live out. Think back to Paul’s words in Romans 13:8-10. Loving others means that we will treat them as we are called to in the second table of the Ten Commandments. So, let’s look at each of the examples Paul gives to show us what this looks like.
1. To love others means that we will not commit adultery. If you’re committing adultery—whether that be through an affair, lust, or pornography—you are not loving your neighbors. You’re certainly not loving your spouse, and you’re not loving other men and women as brothers and sisters in Christ who are created in the image of God.
You’re lust isn’t an expression of love, it’s a vulgar display of the desire to treat men or women as objects created for your personal pleasure and satisfaction. It will kill your marriage, your relationships with those of the opposite sex, and chiefly your relationship with God.
2. To love others means that we will not murder. “Well, duh,” you may be thinking. But, assuming you’ve read through the Sermon on the Mount, you and I both know that there’s more to it than that. As Jesus said,
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt. 5:21-22)
We all know what this means. We’ve hated others. We’ve been angry just because someone interfered with our perfect plan for our life. There have been times that we’ve wished someone would disappear. In other words, we’re all murderers who deserve hell. We all desperately need the grace of God to love others and put our hatred to death.
3. To love others means that we won’t steal from them. We know that stealing is wrong, but we often forget that stealing isn’t just about taking an object that doesn’t belong to you. Certainly, it’s not less than that, but I believe it’s more. In stealing, we are hurting our neighbor. We are essentially saying, “I love myself more than I love you, so I’m perfectly fine with hurting you for my own benefit.”
4. To love others means that we won’t covet what they have. Covetousness is at the root of many of the problems we have in our relationships with others. We see what others have, and we want it, badly. Greed and envy begin to consume us. Eventually, our greed and envy invite their close neighbors bitterness and contempt to the party. And then, whatever love we had for our neighbor is strangled by the fact that they have something we don’t. The relationship dies, and all that remains is malice and gossip.
Paul makes it clear what love isn’t. But what does Christian love look like positively? In summary, to love others means to treat them as God calls us to treat them according to his Word. This is a sacrificial love that genuinely seeks the good of others. “Love,” as Paul writes, “does no wrong to a neighbor” (Rom. 13:8a). That’s radical. By its very nature, love is incompatible with our sin. Lust, covetousness, idolatry, and hate are diametrically opposed to it.
So, it’s silly to pit the law and love against each other. In fact, what we are called to is nothing short of holy love that seeks what is best for others to the glory of God.